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Cowboys playoff picture: NFC East lead within grasp, wild card still in play

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The Cowboys made significant strides in the playoff picture on Sunday.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Atlanta Falcons Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

We can seriously start talking about the Dallas Cowboys making a playoff push as we head into Week 12 of the 2018 season. Until this point, besides the early parts of the season when almost everybody is in contention, the Cowboys and the playoffs didn’t seem to be a serious thing. It was all faith that something could happen, but nothing really tangible. That has changed as the Cowboys are just one win away from grabbing a share of the NFC East lead. The Thanksgiving Day game against Washington has taken on huge importance.

The Cowboys are definitely in the chase for the NFC East, but they also remain alive for the NFC wild card, although some losses earlier in the season put them on the wrong end of tiebreakers.

First up, the East.

The Cowboys can catch Washington with a win on Thanksgiving, and technically they would take the lead because they would have three division wins while Washington would only have two. Also, it has to be noted that Washington will be without Alex Smith for the rest of the year, along with the two offensive linemen they lost in the previous week. The Cowboys have to take advantage of a weakened rival on Thursday.

Washington is about to start a three-game run within the division, they play on the road at Dallas, on the road at Philadelphia, then at home versus New York. That three game stretch will go a long way toward determining their fate. Losing games, especially division games, could knock them out of contention quickly. They finish up with Jacksonville, Tennessee and the Eagles again. We’ll worry about Philadelphia if they ever get things righted and get back into contention. For now, they are headed in the wrong direction.

As for the wild card, it looks like this:

The Cowboys are in the eighth spot in the NFC, but only a half-game behind the 5-4-1 Vikings for the last wildcard spot. The Panthers hold the other wild card spot at 6-4, but they also own the tiebreak against Dallas. The Seahawks are tied with Dallas with a 5-5 record, but are ahead of Dallas in the seventh spot thanks to their win over the Cowboys earlier this season. The Packers are lurking at a half-game behind Dallas in ninth place with a 4-5-1 record.

So the wild card is not out of reach. The losses to Carolina and Seattle make it rougher, but there is still the possibility of Dallas getting on a run and some teams ahead of them faltering. In the end, though, the Cowboys playoff path is much more manageable, and in their own hands, through the NFC East.